SOCIAL ENTERPRISE NEWS
Our newest Social Enterprise Spotlight is Emily Hamalainen and Little Acorns CIC. Little Acorns CIC is an award winning nature-based and holistic learning provider. Read and share their Q&A interview below!
Get in contact with Emily on firstname.lastname@example.org.
What’s your social and/or environmental mission?Putting it simply, Little Acorns provides quality nature-based and holistic learning opportunities for children and families. Based in outdoor settings such as woodlands, coasts, local parks and our purpose-built forests school site we help to connect people to nature, themselves and each other; empowering self-confidence and promoting healthy lives and wellbeing.
How do you do it?The magic happens through our unique learning programme, inspired by the Finnish educational model, forest schooling, self-autonomous learning and Waldorf Steiner educational principles. We run activities for most stages of life so there’s something for everyone: Parent and toddler sessions, nature clubs for kids 6-13 years, family forest school, groups for those with additional needs. We even run support groups for adults and our exciting new project is an intergenerational group, bringing together young children and the over 50’s.
What’s your personal motivation for being a social entrepreneur?After 10 years in the legal industry, it was time for a change. I wanted a job that inspired me creatively and allowed me and my husband to home-educate our two daughters but also combined my business skills and passion for the great outdoors with the opportunity to make a real and lasting difference in my community. After having children, I spent time exploring different educational learning methods, I came back to my holistic upbringing attending a Waldorf Steiner school and my interest in my husband’s upbringing in Finland- I realised our local community was in need of something different to the mainstream nursery/school system and that ‘nature deficit disorder’ as termed by Richard Louv is becoming a big deal! Little Acorns grew from this desire for positive change.
What are your current projects?Our business is going from strength to strength. There is a growing appreciation for holistic learning and outdoor education. During Covid-19 we built a purpose-built forest school site that allows us to run an extensive range of outdoor sessions to suit all ages and abilities, from tiny tots right through to grandparents, children with additional needs and support groups for parents. We have also taken on a new site in Renfrewshire which will allow us to expand further. We have developed a unique learning programme that combines the natural rhythms of the seasons, holistic learning-methods and environmental education.
What exciting things do you have coming up?Our work with schools and groups is expanding. We have developed an award-winning curriculum-linked learning programme that allows us to adapt to all kinds of urban spaces such as school playing fields, playgrounds and local green spaces. We also have an exciting project in the pipe line where we bring our services to urban inner-council areas through our ‘mobile forest school’ with the aim being to reach those kids most in need.
Who do you want to work with more?Through recent Lottery Funding we have been able to provide free sessions for vulnerable kids and those living in areas of multiple deprivation but we want to reach far more children (and adults!) in need and on a far longer-term basis. We also want to work more with local schools to help them develop their own outdoor learning programmes, reach kids from all demographics and to inspire and empower teachers and educators to deliver quality outdoor learning.
What’s your biggest challenge?Our biggest challenge is juggling! In the early days we had to juggle all strands of our business ourselves, from marketing, recruitment, co-ordination, website development, finance, delivery. The lot. As the business has become more established, we are now beginning to invest in growing our team which is really exciting for us. Another challenge is funding – successful funding tenders are key to our business but it can be disheartening when you invest so much time and effort in applying only to be told it’s a ‘no’.
What top tips would you give to other social enterprises?I would say to others with that passion and drive for social enterprise is to remember to make time for you. Running a social enterprise by its very nature takes a lot of your energy, it can be all consuming- especially in the early days. Take time for you and for your self-care. It also helps to find a support network, connect in with other social entrepreneurs, and for us women chatting to other women in business who ‘just gets it’, gets you and gets what you’re going through is so worthwhile.
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